Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Bahrain Censors Google Earth

This morning my nephew from GE sent me an e-mail with an article from the Financial Times on Mahmoud’s Den and Google Earth in Bahrain. When Google Earth upgraded the resolution on Bahrain, Bahrainis started recording the discrepancy in properties, and circulating copies of residencies, luxury cars, boats, etc. in contrast to the poor, crowded villages. The Bahraini government banned the use of Google Earth in Bahrain. You can guess what happened next – downloads shot through the roof. It’s just human nature.

The article in Financial Times gives more information.

When are governments going to figure out that when you ban a technology, you only make it more attractive? Google Earth downloads for free, it is available to everyone with a computer and adequate bandwidth. No matter what safeguards you put in, there are ways around it. That’s just the nature of technology.

Mahmoud’s Den sports a button that says “No Sunni, No Shiia, Just Bahraini”.

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November 28, 2006 - Posted by | Blogging, Communication, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Kuwait, Middle East, Political Issues, Social Issues, Uncategorized

6 Comments »

  1. mmmm maybe they can be like Israel, then, and ask that google’s resolution be lessened for all images of Bahrain. it would be for strategic reasons, of course: the strategy of staying in power at any cost.

    pfft pfft and here I was so pleased that Bahrain a) had elections b) with women participants and c) without lots of kerfuffling about them and most of all d) that the opposition won.

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | November 28, 2006 | Reply

  2. Hi Little Diamond 🙂
    Did you visit Mahmoud’s Den? I agree with you, there is a lot of good happening in Bahrain. And there are actually several nations not happy about Google Earth hi-res. And to me, it’s all about the A-word. GE helps provide accountability.

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 28, 2006 | Reply

  3. Google doesn’t lower the resolution of Israli imagery, Digital Globe (one of Google’s imagery providers) does so because it is US law (The Kyl-Bingaman Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997). If DG provided any satellite imagery of Israel higher than 2m resolution, the US government could and would revoke their license to do business. So… Bahrain would have to push a law through US congress or put serious pressure on the President to get that kind of treatment. 😉

    Here’s a snippet from a Globalsecurity article regarding this law…

    One extreme form of shutter control is simply to permanently prohibit imaging of a given area. Although such a policy runs counter to long-standing U.S. efforts to legitimate remote sensing, the United States has already instituted one such ban. Under the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment to the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act, U.S. companies are forbidden to collect or sell imagery of the entire country of Israel “unless such imagery is no more detailed or precise than satellite imagery … that is routinely available from commercial sources.” The amendment also gives the president the option of extending the blackout to any other country or geographic purpose. When the amendment first passed, it did not seem to raise a significant problem. NOAA reportedly told the American companies at the time that the Russian Spin-2 film imagery at roughly two-meter resolution was equivalent to the U.S. industry’s planned one-meter systems. But in July 1998, NOAA informed Earth Watch, Space Imaging, and OrbImage that they would not be allowed to distribute imagery of Israel at one-meter or better resolution. News reports claim that the change in policy came about as the result of intense lobbying by pro-Israeli groups. Given that Israel already operates its own spy satellite (Ofeq-3) and reportedly has plans to enter the commercial remote sensing market itself, allegations persist that Israel is at least as interested in protecting its commercial prospects by hamstringing American competitors as it is in protecting its own security.

    Comment by earthling | November 29, 2006 | Reply

  4. Greetings, Earthling! Happy to see you here again, and welcome, always. I had no idea that there was ONE exception to GE’s high res views of planet Earth. Makes sense, given our foreign policy blind spot. 😡

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 30, 2006 | Reply

  5. Good Site! Keep Doing That!

    Comment by jak | June 11, 2007 | Reply

  6. Good site – you\’re a pretty good writer.

    Comment by Helga | June 14, 2007 | Reply


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